Are we not humans?

Last night, Israeli authorities released another 550 Palestinian prisoners in the second stage of a prisoner swap deal with Hamas, the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, according to which Hamas released the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who had been held in Hamas’s captivity for more than five years.

Two things I wanted to flag up as a follow-up to the coverage of the prisoner deal.

First, I have sadly become used to reading news about Israel’s Ministry of Housing and Construction – no irony intended, that’s what’s it is called – issuing permits to build new settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Absolutely sad news but what can we do about it?

Usually the number is a thousand or more. I genuinely can’t remember a time when I read this kind of news in which the number of the settlement units was not in thousands.

However, what is interesting about the number this time is the fact that it was 1028. Rings a bell? It’s all right; perhaps it was a mere coincidence, although the fact that it happened on the same exact day when Israel had to release the rest of 1027 Palestinian prisoners from its jails makes me doubt that it was a coincidence. That is definitely Israel’s blatant and shameless arrogance which was obviously dealt a blow by the prisoner swap deal they had to strike with Hamas, and whereby they had to ironically repair the damage by building the same number (plus one) of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Secondly, I watched a video of one of the released Palestinian prisoners’ reunion with his mother. I am not certain if I have a lot to say about it. One thought instantly crossed my mind when I saw it, desperately trying to gulp back my tears at the incredibly flowing emotionality of the scene: Are we not humans. I immediately recalled another clip that I watched earlier in which herds – the word is intentionally used – of Palestinians are deplorably humiliated at checkpoints by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and in which one Israeli soldier refers to them as well as everyone living “there” (meaning inside the West Bank; all Palestinians) as animals.

My tears running down my face, I continued to watch the affectionate warmth and utter passion with which the mother embraced and kissed her son where they seemed to merge again into one human being after years and years of forced separation. The son detaches himself from his mother, kneels toward her feet, and, starts kissing them.

“Are we not humans?” I kept asking myself.

In fact, although no one is in a position to judge who is more human than the other, I must say those who casually kiss their mothers’ feet as a sign of love and respect are the most human amongst all humans.

And nothing is most fitting to end with than a Shakespearean quote put in Shylock’s voice. When I was first taught The Merchant of Venice, I still remember when it was time to discuss that quote, I was disturbed by what I thought to be the undue amount of time the teacher assigned to explaining it. I never knew it would strike a chord four years later.

Shylock, a Jewish merchant who was hugely and brazenly discriminated against across Venic for only being a Jew, delivers a moving speech addressing a Christian audience in the court. Having replaced the word “Jew” with “Palestinian”, it reads as follows:

I am a Palestinian. Hath not a Palestinian eyes? hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as an Israeli Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

Below is the video of the released Palestinian prisoner’s reunion with his mother.


3 responses to “Are we not humans?

  1. Pingback: December 22 | Allison Hales

  2. That’s very moving. That’s a well written post. You set up the Shakespeare passage nicely.

  3. Mohammed writes, “I must say those who casually kiss their mothers’ feet as a sign of love and respect are the most human amongst all humans.”

    Yes indeed. And thank you for the video. I had not seen it before.

    When an Israeli treats Palestinians like animals, and then calls his victims “animals,” it is the Israeli who rejects human-ness, and embraces the beast within. He becomes a miserable wretch.

    I do not pity him, since he voluntarily chooses death for himself and for all around him. He chooses to remain in the dungeon of hate.

    This is off-topic, but I recently saw another video that struck me hard. It did not show the usual Israeli cruelty, but showed Palestinians passing through a turn-style at an Israeli checkpoint. The Israeli in the control booth let about twenty Palestinians through, and the men scrambled to get in before they were randomly denied passage. Suddenly the Israeli hit a button that froze the turn-style, trapping one man within the steel bars. The trapped Palestinian closed his eyes and slumped with his forehead against the bars. He had been through this so many times before. Had he been there one second earlier, he would have made it through.

    To me this was a small scene, but a powerful one. Murders and atrocities are bad enough, but the injustices of everyday life are cumulative, and hit just as deep.

    Those who have not been in this situation assume that if a Palestinian decides to retaliate, it is because the Israelis murdered someone he loves. But I submit that this is not real life. It is not how the human soul operates. When we lose someone we love, we are too devastated to be angry. We are beyond hate. We are lost in grief.

    By contrast, the cumulative stress of everyday life under occupation can easily make a person snap in despair, and retaliate.

    My point is that people who claim to support Palestinians tend to be motivated by specific atrocities. But what about the atrocity of everyday life? For me personally, a scene that shows Israelis bulldozing Palestinian olive orchards is just as powerful as scenes of blood and human death.

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